Tips for addressing cyberbullying

Sep 11, 2019, 15:47 PM by Dr. Jeff Temple, associate professor and director of Behavioral Health and Research in UTMB's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

While in-person bullying remains common and consequential, cyberbullying and harassment that takes place using digital devices such as cell phones, computers and tablets through text, instant or email messages, or on social media, is important to prevent. 

Victims can be harassed anytime, anywhere— sometimes for the whole world to witness, all while perpetrators can choose to remain anonymous. 

Cyberbullying includes sending, posting or sharing negative, harmful, false or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information that is threatening or causes embarrassment or humiliation. Occasionally, cyberbullying even crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior, so it’s a growing concern in our always-connected society. 

The 2017 School Crime Supplement, published by the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice, found that among students aged 12 to 18 who reported being bullied during the school year, 15 percent were bullied online or via text. 

As students head back to school, now is the perfect time for parents to discuss cyberbullying with their children. 

Here are five tips to help parents and guardians address the issue: 

  1. Set ground rules for your child’s use of cell phones and other devices. 
  2. Encourage them to use texting and social media to support their peers, not bring them down. Just as no student should sit alone at lunch, no one should feel alone online. 
  3. Speak their language. Familiarize yourself with social websites and apps your child uses. 
  4. Have an honest conversation about cyberbullying and the impact it can have on the victim. 
  5. Discuss being a good “digital citizen.” Treat people online like you would treat them in person and how you want to be treated in person. 

Additional resources are available on the Behavioral Health and Research page at https://www.utmb.edu/bhar/resources.